tree kami; Shikoku, Japan; 2006

In the Japanese animistic religion of Shinto, natural features of the landscape are revered as the embodiment of the gods (“kami”), especially in the case of impressive examples such as this ancient tree. It’s easy to imagine this one coming to life and swallowing you up as you walk by.

Many trees near sacred sites have been fostered for centuries, with stilts, scaffolds, and stone pillars holding up the most massive limbs. A tree which embodies a sacred spirit will be marked, or dressed, with decorative ropes and folded paper. A disintegrating rope with tassles can be seen around this example.

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